Awe Inspiring Experience
Petra & Jordan
At the beginning of March I visited Jordan with Intrepid and it was the most amazing experience. For people who are fascinated by archaeological sites, visually stunning and dramatically crafted buildings such as the Treasury then this is the right holiday for you.
We flew on Royal Jordanian from Heathrow. The setup was 3-4-3 with good legroom, space and thankfully a good choice of films which is always a bonus! The food wasn't bad either. Our first day was a visit to mount Nebo which is Moses' burial place in which Pope John Paul II visited in March 2000 to recognize the site. From this beautiful sacred spot on a good clear day you can see as far as Jerusalem. Being 2680ft above sea level, it is the perfect place to view a panoramic wonder of the Holy Land to the north and a good but albeit a limited view of the River Jordan in the valley.
The stunning Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba hosts the most amazing, original floor mosaic which is the oldest known map of Palestine and has many historical insights and was crafted in 560AD.
A truly wonderful thing is that there is a mosque and a church in very close proximity to each other in Madaba and both religions live in harmony with each other. Remarkable considering and have high respect for each other. We had a great opportunity to cook a traditional Jordanian meal in a local restaurant. While my culinary skills are not exactly Nigella-esque I was able to make the lentil soup with side salad which was lovely. I have the recipe if anyone would like it!
From here we had a four hour drive along the desert highway from Aman to Petra; a long but beautiful drive. Along the way we were able to stop at Cavebar at Crowne Plaza. The atmosphere here is brilliant.
Day two was all about Petra. After an early start we had a brilliant all day tour of this magnificent place. The Siq, is the entrance to the city of Petra; a narrow gorge which winds its way some 1.2 kilometers to a very dramatic end view of the Treasury. Built at the beginning of the 1st century AD this mausoleum and crypt was crafted and carved out of sandstone by Arab Nabateans. The building is heavily influenced from the time of the Roman & Hellenistic Empires and thus has a classic Greek look about the architecture. It has also been restored as one of the pillars was missing when it was first discovered and although you can no longer go inside the Treasury for safety reasons, it does not take away the dramatic impact it has.
We continued the tour into the kings tombs. Its great because you can climb the steps up to them and look inside the chambers. Lunch was in the Basic Restaurant; an acceptable array of buffet style salads although the mains of chicken, fish, rice and fried potatoes was okay but nothing amazing.
Having fueled ourselves we then proceeded onto the hours hike it took to get up the steps to the Monastery. Although this was brilliant training for the Moonwalk at the time, the heat was sapping and my fitbit was working over time! The views were unparalleled and once you reach the top, you get a real feeling of accomplishment and it very much worth the aching legs and lack of breath. After a brief few minutes to take in the dramatic scenery and to take some photos we started out decent back down to the start.
The guide we had was very informative, they were able to give amazing facts about this place and how it was discovered. For anyone travelling to Jordan, Petra is a must. It is a long day but extremely worth it and you shouldn't miss out on the opportunity to see this wonder. Petra by night is also worth checking out and a completely different experience!
Our day was ended by staying at the Captain's Camp. You really do get the feeling of being in the middle of no-where! Even with the hot water, showers, flushing toilets and wifi! It was nice though that on arrival we were upgraded to luxury rooms which had proper beds and en suite facilities. The food there was very acceptable, we were presented with a bbq with a great selection of hot and cold options. Later we stayed around the main camp fire and drank traditional mint tea. The main fire by the tents wasn't lit as we were the only guests but we were able to sit around star gazing and enjoying the whole experience. I would advise to brush up on your astrology before visiting purely because we were only able to spot Mars, Venus, the North Star and possibly the Plough but didn't know the rest!
On day three, being up bright and early, adorned like Laurence of Arabia with the wind in my hair we had our utterly thrilling 4x4 safari of the Wadi Desert. The tour lasted around an hour and a half, taking in the sheer natural beauty of the landscape. There is a place after the rains where water collects and we managed to stop here and see where the plants grow. There was also an opportunity to see a Bedouin tent selling pashmeres etc. This tourist attraction gives you an insight into how the Bedouins lived and traded meat for goods and how they transported them through the desert.
The official baptism site in Bethany, discovered in 1997 was next to visit on our list. 45 churches are situated along the border to the site itself but only 25 of them have been fully finished. The plan for them is to have one for every denomination here so everyone feels welcome and people who visit on pilgrimages can go to church and be blessed.
After our visit here we went to the dead sea for a mud bath and float! A very interesting and unique experience!
I would strongly recommend anyone to visit Jordan and Petra, especially those who are into history and archeological sites. Seeing everything up close had me in awe. The intricate craftmanship of the buildings and the story behind them is very interesting and something that stays with you long after you leave. For those who love to walk and hike this holiday would interest you! I would also suggest that you invest in decent walking boots, your feet will thank you for it! Hats and scarves are recommended due the fact it is sunny, hot and not a lot of shade around so make sure you have adequate protection to shield yourself.
All in all, a perfect short break for something a little different. Contact myself or Mark who have both been recently to this magnificent place!